Wednesday, September 20, 2006

robert johnson

back in june i put together a powerpoint presentation for my son's 'grade 8 farewell' (lest we call it 'grad'!) and i got thinking about poetry and nicknames. see, my kid's nickname is dozzy- easy to say, means nothing... it's perfect. (be cooler to call him d'Ozzy or something, but that's a whole nother blog). my father's nickname was similar- his friends called him duzzy.

my nickname? i'd rather not talk about it.

the kids called me dogslop.

now i understand that nicknames are typically kids' earliest application of poetic devices into some sort of social context (e.g. as per the recent 'happy madison' movie Benchwarmers: Gerry Fairy, Gus Bus… etc) but something in me still bristles when i remember signing things using my nickname.


if it was some sort of big scriptural reference to my basic propensity to sin (proverbs 26.11) then it might allow me to build some form of outlaw persona out of it. however, all of my friends knew me as the squeeky-clean sunday-school kid who didn't smoke, drink, swear or go to parties. i was the proverbial whitesheep of the family, the designated driver of the band and the conveniently christian friend from school to introduce to one's parents if they ever got suspicious. nope, this nickname was simply a ridiculous rhyme for my last name (at least no one called me coleslaw which was probably a closer fit, but not at all interesting.)

but it's humbling to remember not only answering to this name, but signing it. i signed the name because it was given to me by my friends and, in choosing to see it as social credentials, i had entered into agreement with it.

well, as for names given to you, it is important to remember that, whether a name is thoughtfully or thoughtlessly imposed, it is not prophecy. it is simply a doorway into relationship: people have to call you something other than 'bud' or 'dude' or whatever, and a name allows others to somehow identify you in some way when refering to you. you give meaning to your name- it doesn't give meaning to you.

i am reminded of the story in mark's gospel of Jesus' encounter with the madman of the tombs. Jesus asks him 'what is your name?' and the guy replies 'legion, for we are many...'


scripture does not record his given name, only the taken one. the name that possessed him. the identity that imprisoned him spiritually and marginalized him socially. the name by which he was known by everyone in the community- and who didn't seem to really be interested in his personal redemption or restoration.

think about it. everyone knew him as the wild man of the tombs- the demoniac- there may have even been some that called him 'legion.' imagine how strange it must have been to have arrived on the scene to find the guy that had been so easy to dismiss sitting quietly at the feet of Christ. suddenly there was something wrong with this picture: the world had just changed- nothing was as it seemed anymore.

Jesus had that kind of power- the kind that healed the sick and raised the dead, the kind that set the captives free and brought into public hearing the things people only dared think about their worldly spiritual leaders, the kind that redeemed original identities.

in his book "Abba's Child",
brennan manning explores the notion of shadow selves. to paraphrase, shadow selves are created identities based on relationships which are circumstancial and ever-changing… they are highly unstable operating systems…

there are similar notions contained in john eldredge's "Wild At Heart"
and the fact that they seem to agree so deeply with this story found in mark 5 leads me to ask many questions on any given day... but most notably:

do we live bound in agreement with what hell wants us to believe about ourselves… rather than being what Jesus saw in us that was worth dying for?

letting shadow selves live in our place is like making a pact with the devil… we shake hands and go on living a life that is, at best, spiritually inconsequential. rather than meeting at the crossroads to ensure greatness (in the tradition of faust and/or the legends of bluesman robert johnson) our deal is more scriptural, ensuring the utter hopelessness of mediocrity and marginalization.

what is the alternative to living out the life of a shadow self?
living in the light of God's truth would be a logical answer. 1 john 1.5-7 informs this one.

and so i ask myself and anyone who will listen

who are you really?
how many shadow selves are you?
how many addictions do you do battle with?
how often do you renew your pact with the devil?
what would it take for you to stop going along with it and fight back by accepting the name God has for you?

this past summer i travelled to my hometown on holidays. as is my usual drill, i went running in the mornings. what i did not expect (amidst a predictably high nostalgia factor) was a return to the crossroads...

on one particular morning, i ran down a street that i had walked as a little kid and i found myself remembering a couple of incidents (one in particular) that had been the birthplace of a particularly important shadow self. this spot wasn't the scene of an abuse at the hands of another or a redefining encounter or anything like that- just the beginning of some perspective that was part of me from then on. although as a young person, i had done a bunch of praying about this one later, my identity had remained in question and i could never really figure out why.

reason? probably that i had never simply spent the time putting that shadow self to death.

but on this one sunny holiday morning, i had nothing but time. renouncing the hold that events some thirty-five years earlier had had upon me, my relationships, my behaviours etc was the first step to a new journey, informed and enwisened by the old one.

with a head full of spiritual steam, i then proceeded to a second place where i needed to continue the cleansing dialogue, systematically putting to death an even more spiritually emasculating self that had long since passed its reasonable expiry date.

and at the end of my run, i sat calmly at the feet of my Lord...
a new man built upon the ruins of the old one.

"As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. Jesus did not let him, but said, "Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you..." (mark 5.18-19)



Blogger marcythewhore said...

marcythewhore subscribes: Can you open the eyes of your heart enough to love a serial killer? Can you be so compassionate?

You loved Michael C. Hall as David Fisher, gay mortician, in 'Six Feet Under.' Now, can you love Michael as a serial killer working as a blood splatter specialist for the Miami-Dade Police Department?

In October, Showtime begins a series 'Darkly Dreaming Dexter,' starring Mike Hall, of course.

You might want to read the book by Jeff Lindsay, a local south-Florida writer whose first book struck gold as a Showtime television series.

Let me give you a hint as to Dexter's first victim in the book: a pedophilic Catholic priest.

The religious can be soooooo sick.

Can you be Christian enough to love a serial killer?..........marcythewhore

Blogger jollybeggar said...

"Let me give you a hint as to Dexter's first victim in the book: a pedophilic Catholic priest.

The religious can be soooooo sick."

i don't know... this writing is not very creative. the pedophilic catholic priest has become as stock as the donut-eating cop character.

now to play with it synectically becomes fun if you take it far enough: you can have the pedophilic cop... (okay, not fun either) but the donut-eating catholic priest might be a regular character on SNL.

it is probably just that donuts are funny for some reason.

Blogger jollybeggar said...

"marcythewhore subscribes: Can you open the eyes of your heart enough to love a serial killer? Can you be so compassionate?"

i'm thinking that marcy is posing this one having read the stuff about social marginalization and the whole disinterest in personal redemption or restoration bits...

interesting she would ask such a question. i've been trying to figure out God's grace and love works in cases that seem obvious to our eyes except for one crucial thing: that any sense of justice that we hold comes from God, yet his love and grace seem decidedly unjust according to our spin on the word. (at least if we go by's 5th definition: the administering of deserved punishment or reward)

back in early august, there was a manhunt on around here. a notorious pedophile was at large and had abducted two young boys. i mean, speaking of identities, how can you pray for the care of these two victims and still pray for the redemption of one who is robbing young people of their picture of life, love, relationships, sexuality etc. it's almost as silly (although frighteningly more complex) as two opposing football coaches praying for victory.

i mean, i remember wondering if the people who commit these kinds of crimes again and again are comparable to serial killers except that, instead of stealing life from the innocent they steal the innocence from another's life?

yet there is no escaping the notion in scripture that Jesus was able to somehow see behind what people had become and invite them into new life and new freedom no matter how sick they seemed to be to the rest of the crowd.

even now he does this, for unrighteousness is only hierarchical to us- in the eyes of a righteous and holy God, sin is sin... there is no big or small- it is not graded on a curve, but is a simple pass or fail course inwhich failure is sure as of the very first mistake. a perfect record is what is required in order to relate to this kind of cosmic holiness without being destroyed and therein lies God's problem. having created us for relationship with himself, he is unable by virtue of his holiness and our lack of it to get close enough to us to even have a conversation without our bursting into flames or whatever.

that was the point of Jesus. but Jesus' point wasn't to simply rescue the nice people from the judgement due them upon telling the first little white lie... his mission was to rescue all of us- even the guy who had ALLEDGEDLY (?)locked himself and the two young boys in a farmhouse.

eventually i found myself praying for deliverence... deliverence of the victims immediately before any more damage was done to their identity and their dignity as human beings, as well as deliverence of the predator from the environment that he had created for himself where he could continue to commit foul acts that would continue to build walls between himself and any form of spiritual freedom in this life or beyond. in short, that the kids would be rescued and the guy would be once again institutionalized in a place where he couldn't do the things that he kept doing against God and humanity.

yeah, i know- it's a pretty sloppy prayer (borderline 'pat answer') with a lot of 'what-if' loose ends... it would be infinitely more difficult for me to pray this way had my own sons been his victims.

i think the problem is that we think that we have to figure it all out in order to pray for God to do the right thing. we should probably just ask for that, whether we can discern what the right thing is or not.

he's God. he'll figure it out.

Blogger marcythewhore said...

marcythewhore advises: You really need to learn to relax and enjoy television for what it is: a vast wasteland with simplified moral alliterations..........mtw

Blogger jollybeggar said...

"You really need to learn to relax..."

people have been telling me that a lot lately...

Blogger SocietyVs said...

Who are you really?
Interesting question but this is the gist of the details - a Christian, Fisrt Nations descendant (Cree/Saulteuax), a husband, a friend of many, a child, and a thinker.

How many shadow selves are you?
I have nothing to hid, to be brutally honest, but I know that I have assumed forms in the past which were a sense of me and in some sense hiding me. The best shadow self I have ever used 'SocietyVs'.

How many addictions do you do battle with?
Plenty, I pretty much run the gammit on this. I never made a claim on perfection or becoming an ideal self.

How often do you renew your pact with the devil?
Never. I figure the devil is a 'liar' and how those lies function are in simple but obvious ways...test your faith! Mis-represent the teachings of God! Seek wealth, fame, and power! These are thing I care not to represent.

What would it take for you to stop going along with it and fight back by accepting the name God has for you?
I have been given a name, which I stumbled upon while in Northern Sask. pondering 'First Nations name ceremonies'...I came to be 'Born to Fight'...I realized this is true of me.

Blogger marcythewhore said...


Yes, I can visualize it being so.......marcythewhore

Blogger SocietyVs said...

The crossroads, odd enough, I am finding myself at one as we type in these discussions. I'll have to look into my disgust much deeper.

Blogger jollybeggar said...

aah yes- the painful insistence of meta-dialogue...
i feel your pain.


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